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Syria Fighting Rages Despite Holiday

  • VOA News

Syrian warplanes bombed several rebel-held areas Tuesday and opposition fighters fired mortar rounds and homemade rockets at Damascus on the first day of a major Muslim holiday.

Syria's state news agency SANA said a mortar shell smashed into a house in the capital's al-Qanawat neighborhood, igniting a fire and wounding four people.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government warplanes bombed targets in the village of Latamneh in northern Hama province, killing three children, as well as areas of the Eastern Ghouta district, near Damascus, and the southern city of Daraa.

The fighting during Eid al-Adha showed how entrenched both sides have become in Syria's civil war. Previously, combatants occasionally attempted to observe holiday cease-fires.

The director of operations of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, Bart Janssens, said the international community should be pushing for badly-needed humanitarian access in Syria as it mobilizes to destroy President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons stockpile.

"So what we see is that there have been very massive gains made in making a deal and even putting that into concrete action to have [chemical weapons] inspectors on the ground, and we really believe that this should be repeated to get more medicine and food in numerous enclaves where all aid is blocked," he said.

Janssens said that aid - especially medical aid - cannot cross front lines anymore. He said his group's supplies now took more than several weeks - instead of days, a couple of months ago - to move into hard-hit areas.

"These chemical weapons inspectors would visit areas where they will see these dire shortages of food and medicine, and this really brings [out] the absurdity of this situation," he said. "And so we really now believe that the government of Syria, the opposition groups, and the countries that have the influence to make such a deal should rapidly act and get a similar agreement, and similar deliveries results for humanitarian assistance that is truly needed in all of these enclaves."

Janssens said that besides a lack of medicine, more and more doctors were leaving areas seeing active fighting because they are so dangerous.

He predicted that in the coming weeks malnutrition would reach very dramatic levels there, resulting in increased mortality among people who had simply run out of food.